I’ve perhaps lived too long to be a great writer. Of course, most of my fiction remains unpublished, much of it read and rejected by editors younger than myself. I can’t help but notice that Poe died at forty and Robert Louis Stevenson at forty-four. Emily Brontë at thirty. All of them today considered literary geniuses, they caught publishers’ attention back when they weren’t such juggernauts as they are today. Even the humble online literary magazine gets too many submissions and the editors advertise their quirky tastes. Not that I’m any Poe, Stevenson, or Brontë. I wonder if their awareness of the greater likelihood of dying young might’ve fueled their work. Perhaps at a subconscious level. I know, for example, that the pressure created by having to start work early leads to some of my own best writing, knowing, as I do, that time is limited.
Shortness of time is a great motivator. One thing authors require is time, however. If you roll out of bed, scarf down breakfast, then logon to work (how the world has changed!), you may have time at the end of the day but I’m so exhausted by work that I simply can’t produce anything at night. I have to do my writing before the worries and pressures of work kill the inspiration. I mean that literally—I can feel it dying as the worries of those seeking tenure, and the issues with which they surround themselves, suck the very vitality of my mind. Serve and protect. And although I’m not exactly old, I’m not young either. I’ve outlived many and, to my way of thinking, it’s because I’m here for a reason. It seems to have to do with writing.
You see, writing is a main identifier. I was asked to take a survey recently by a group that wanted to identify people’s main sources of self-identity. They asked about things like gender, race, sexual-orientation. The usual suspects. The survey wasn’t crafted, however, by a writer. If it had been they’d have known that that is a category unto itself. Those of us who write know that we are writers, whether published or not. Whether famous or not. It’s more than a profession—it’s an identity. Sometimes we have to keep it quiet since those who hire others want the categories that identify themselves by to be race or gender or social status. The writer may not be motivated by money. Many work well but may not identify fully with their “job.” They may, in fact, be watching the time slipping away and wish they were writing instead.